Friday, March 27, 2009

Daring Bakers March- Spinach Lasagna

This is my second Daring Bakers challenge, and after last month's flourless chocolate cake, definitely not what I expected. I must say, I was very disappointed when I saw homemade spinach lasagna noodles...I knew that was going to be a hard, if not impossible sell with Ad. However, I've been a little more motivated in the cooking area lately, so although it took me a few weeks to get motivated to actually make this lasagna, it got made. If you knew Ad, you would understand my complete shock when he actually tried it. Seriously, the guy doesn't eat any veggies or fruit (something that has rubbed off on the girls, unfortunately.) And spinach has always been a joke with him and his dad "I made sure to put extra spinach in for you!" But I give him props, he ate it. He didn't like it, but he ate it. I must say, I didn't really care for it much either. It was better after it had sat for a day or so, but even then, the noodles were something I wouldn't make again. The recipe itself needed some adjusting (hence the reason I'm not posting it) and the assembly of the lasagna called for bechamel. I guess I'm an all-American kind of girl...I did not care for the bechamel. I will say, though, that I did actually enjoy being more creative in the kitchen on the cooking side of things, and it motivated me to join the new Daring Cooks! Let's hope there is no more spinach lasagna!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Super Soft Brownie Cookies

Days like these I think God has a cruel sense of humor... why is it that I can bake super yummy things, but can't eat any more than a tiny nibble (if that!) without gaining 10lbs?! With not working, I have had an overwhelming need to bake; it's what keeps me sane! So I end up with little masterpieces like these cookies on my counter...crying out for a home! In all seriousness, these cookies rocked. I wasn't exactly expecting greatness, and the original recipe was a little blah. I decided to add some chocolate fudge pudding mix and some chopped white chocolate to make it a little more interesting. The end result was a soft, brownie like cookie. Yummmmmm.....

Super Soft Brownie Cookies
1 cup butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 pkg. chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 eggs
10 oz. chopped white chocolate
2 c. flour
2/3 c. cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light. Add pudding mix and vanilla, then eggs. Mix for a few minutes, until fluffy. Add in white chocolate and mix for another minute or so.

Normally in cookies, I would add the chocolate in the end. This time, I decided to throw the chopped white chocolate in before the flour, in hopes that the chocolate would break up a little more from the added mixing, and would get incorporated into the batter a little more.

Ok. So after the chocolate is mixed in, add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Roll dough into teaspoon sized balls and place on an ungreased baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.

Another thing about this recipe...these cookies only "crackled" when I baked them on the top rack of my oven. I baked one tray on the bottom rack, and the cookies were flat. The others that were baked on the top rack puffed up nicely and got that nice glossy crackle. My oven racks aren't even that far apart, so I'm not too sure what the deal is. But a heads up anyway.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coconut Cream Pie...who knew?

Waking up this morning, I never would of thought I'd be ending the day by whipping up a coconut cream pie. While I was cooking dinner, my neighbor stopped by to ask if I would make the pie for her...sure, no problem! Hey, it gives me a reason to bake and blog! I actually had all of the ingredients (well, only because I chose to change the recipe) except for a couple, which I borrowed from different neighbor. I've never actually eaten a coconut cream pie, and I only tasted the filling of this one; I thought it tasted pretty yummy, so hopefully my neighbor does too.
Coconut Cream Pie
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 1/4 c. heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 c. sugar, divided
1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. coconut, plus additional for the top
1 graham cracker crust or graham crackers and butter to make a crust

In a saucepan, whisk together coconut milk, 1/2 c. heavy cream, milk, eggs, 3/4 c. sugar, flour, and salt. Continue whisking and bring to a boil on medium-low heat. Mixture will get nice and custardy-thick (think pastry cream.) Add vanilla and 3/4 c. coconut. Spread evenly into your crust. Place in the refrigerator and let set up for at least 2 hours.

Spread additional coconut (I used about 1/3 c.) onto a cookie sheet. Place in a preheated 400 degree oven, checking and "stirring" it often so the coconut toasts evenly and does not burn. Let cool.

Place remaining heavy cream in a mixing bowl and start whipping. Add remaining 1/4 c. sugar and continue whipping until the cream is stiff. Spread onto the top of the pie. Add toasted coconut.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Red Ape Cinnamon and Snickerdoodle M&M Cookies

Last week something super exciting happened..someone saw my blog and wanted me to try out a product. I am the type of person that loves surveys and product reviews (I also am a Bzzagent) so I couldn't wait to try out the Red Ape Cinnamon that showed up on my doorstep. The first thing I noticed was that it was lighter in color than my normal cinnamon, and when I compared the smell, I couldn't believe the difference. The Red Ape cinnamon smelled sweet and clean; mine smelled dirty. You can just tell it's good quality. A 1lb bag is $13, which is pretty good. You can find out more about it here.

So with my Red Ape cinnamon, I decided to make some simple snicker-doodles with Easter colored M&M's.

Snickerdoodles with M&M's
1 c. butter
1/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 pkg. cheesecake flavored instant pudding mix (you could easily use vanilla flavored)
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pkg. M&M's
cinnamon sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light, add vanilla and pudding mix and continue mixing. Beat in eggs and let it mix for a few minutes, until it's really fluffy. (I recently purchased the Beater Blade for my Kitchenaid...TOTALLY worth it! It's really easy to get my butter and egg mixture white and fluffy.) Stir in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon until completely incorporated and then mix in about 1/2 a bag of M&M's (use more or less, but save some for the cookie tops.)

When I made them, I actually separated the dough in half before I put the cinnamon in. In on half, I added the cinnamon, in the other I added the M&M's. Then I kind of "swirled" the dough. In the future, I will skip this step; if the cinnamon dough was a little darker, you would of been able tell it was swirled, but to me it seemed like more work for not a lot of results. Anyway...

Roll cookie dough into balls (I would say teaspoon size...big enough so you can fit 3 M&M's on it) and then into the cinnamon sugar. Add the M&M's on top. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.

These weren't my absoloute favorite cookies, but Adam loved them. He gave Red Ape cinnamon two thumbs up.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hawaiian Bridal Shower Cake

Normally I like to keep my cakes separate from this blog, but I loved how this Hawaiian themed engagement/bridal shower cake turned out. It's a scratch white almond cake with whipped milk chocolate (Hershey Kisses, actually!) ganache filling. Just wanted to share!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Doughnuts on a Sunday Morning

For a while now, I've been wanting to make some homemade doughnuts. These are another thing I remember making with my mom when I was little; I preferred the yeast kind, but hated having to wait for the dough to rise twice before they could be fried and be glazed. I'm really not much of a doughnut person; I think it's just the memories of making them with my mom that I like so much. So yesterday I finally got up enough ambition to whip these up; and I think I got doughnut making out of my system for awhile. These tasted pretty good but they weren't as airy as I would of liked. I guess I probably could of let them rise a little longer. In the end, I had big tray of various doughnuts, and the usual "Uh what do I do with them?" So I plated them up and sent them into work with Ad. I found the recipe for these doughnuts on Allrecipes; I actually followed it pretty closely, only substituting butter for the shortening. You can find the recipe here. I think if I do make doughnuts again, I will call my mom and try out her recipe. Ad likes the doughnuts from Dunkin that have the chocolate frosting-like-creme in them, so I made a thin, whipped buttercream and used a bismark tip to fill them (this filling is in the heart shaped ones that are covered with confectioners sugar, and the stick ones with the sprinkles.) They were good, but silly me...filled them before they were cooled all the way, so the buttercream melted some. Oh well. Surprisingly, Emily actually really liked these doughnuts (she is not a big sweets eater) so I have a feeling she might be requesting me to make them again soon.